Kicking off this year’s Russian Resurrection Film Festival, Hero is a “spy-thriller” about Russian sleeper cells all over the world awaiting instructions from a shadowy government agency. The film follows Andrey (Alexander Petrov), a member of a group known as ‘Youth’ who receives a call from his dead father alerting him of the danger he will soon be facing as a team of unnamed red-shirts begin to hunt him down for as yet unknown reasons. He out-manoeuvers one such adversary and inexplicably appears to segue himself from Vienna, Austria to Cologne, Germany in a day to find fellow Youth member Masha (Svetlana Khodchenkova).
And so begins a cat and mouse as confusing as it is ridiculous, with plots so frequently introduced and abandoned it’s hard not to find the entire film laughable. Svetlana Khodchenkova has a certain amount of crossover appeal, having featured in Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy and Wolverine, and offers the only clue as to the potential seriousness of the film, without which audiences could be forgiven for thinking they’re watching a big-budget B-grade TV adaptation of a spy thriller.
The film’s writer Nikolay Kulikov has confused plot-twists with smart story telling, introducing and abandoning plot-lines as frequently as Tommy Wiseau, changing from an action spy film to a heist movie complete with non-linear story-telling, and then back again as if nothing had happened, and flipping the motives of the main characters so frequently this reviewer isn’t at all certain whether the good guys won or lost in the end. Director Karen Oganesyan has done a commendable job at imitating a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster with huge sweeping location shots, tight hand-to-hand combat sequences and a strangely beautiful but out of place rom-com sequence inside an inflating hot-air balloon which appears in the film completely out of nowhere and features such a ridiculous amount of rolling around that, following this scene, the whole film could almost be interpreted as a parody.
There’s a subset within cult films often referred to as the “so-bad it’s good” genre, which can feature homages to particular genre films à la Quentin Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse double of 2007, or films which have an inexplicable appeal unto themselves such as Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 classic The Room. I’m not certain which category this film fits into, but when viewed through the lens of a “so-bad it’s good” film, it can actually be funny and enjoyable. That’s not to say Hero is a good film, it’s just not, but it is an enjoyable, if lengthy, film audiences could laugh at (not with).
Hero screens as part of the Russian Resurrection Film Festival from 8th to 17th November.